America watches the Kavanaugh circus as Congress blows up the budget

America watches the Kavanaugh circus as Congress blows up the budget
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The media circus currently playing out in the halls of Congress has distracted from a myriad of other stories that would themselves be front-page news if we weren't in the political Twilight Zone. What Congress and the president are currently doing with the budget would certainly make headlines in a sane world.

The more that the national news cycle runs off the rails, the more that Americans deserve a real conversation about the prodigious rate at which the federal government has grown at the expense of taxpayers.

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Few rational people can look at the sideshow unfolding this week and have great confidence that federally elected officials are better equipped to make decisions about their lives than they are. Yet, with endless blank checks, the role only grows.

Recounting the details of what Congress passed last week would be routine if it weren’t so disappointing. Ahead of a forever-looming government shutdown at the end of the month, Congress sent the president a historically large spending package.

Passed by a margin of 361 to 61, the measure clocks in at $854 billion in spending and combines with prior measures to add up to nearly $1 trillion.

This latest measure provides full-year funding only for the Pentagon (a longtime priority for many Republicans) and funds for labor, health and human services and education (a longtime priority for many Democrats).

Meanwhile, separate packages have funded other parts of government and work begins on the next round of appropriations that Congress will pretend there is a serious chance of passing before beginning this whole process again.

Both sides of this latest bipartisan deal contain high levels of spending and even some extra bonus programs on top. There’s $550 million going to Planned Parenthood and no funding for Trump’s Wall, but conservative objections were not enough to stop the bill from passing.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocratic senator rips Trump's 'let them fight' remarks: 'Enough is enough' Warren warns Facebook may help reelect Trump 'and profit off of it' Trump touts Turkey cease-fire: 'Sometimes you have to let them fight' MORE, who six months ago pledged he would “never sign a bill like this again,” went ahead and signed a bill like this again on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Select Committee on Budget Process Reform toils away with little public notice, and at the very least, it will be some time before we see any real progress on the type of reform necessary to avoid this happening again.

Amid the constant, frantic pace of political news, it’s not likely that members of Congress will have much interest in focusing on the dry details of budget process reform as they head back to their districts ahead of November midterms.

Ironically, as Washington lurches from one hyper-partisan crisis to another, taking a serious look at the programs and expenditures of the federal government has never been more important.

But if anything, objections from Congress are becoming increasingly quiet under united government, if this last vote is any indication. Since the 1960s, adjusted for inflation, discretionary spending has more than doubled, and one shudders to imagine what the trend will become over the next few years.

Sooner or later, rising liabilities in programs will force a real conversation on the rate of spending, deficits and debt. One hopes this conversation occurs soon enough to make the kind of serious reforms that will bring sanity back to the federal budgeting process before the blank checks run out.

Jonathan Bydlak is a fiscal policy expert and the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He also spearheads SpendingTracker.org.